EDITION: Guimarães Jazz Annual Journal #8 - Câmara Municipal de Guimarães/ Associação Cultural Convívio/ A Oficina    
DATE: November 2013 

The birth of a festival

The idea of organizing a jazz festival was brought up in 1991 by a group of people connected to Association
Convívio and the city council. The whole idea was an absolute novelty, given the fact that there was nothing
similar to it happening in Guimarães at the time. At first, the organizers didn’t know which model they could
pursue in order to create such an event, although there were some good references in Portugal, such as the
pioneer Cascais Jazz, Porto Jazz Festival (which was to be extinguished few years later) and Jazz em Agosto,
promoted by the prestigious Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Therefore, the chance of starting something from
scratch bringing together all those interested in the dissemination of jazz music, was seen as quite an audacious
In 1995, the Guimarães Jazz festival was already in its fourth edition and had achieved considerable prestige. By
that time, it was viewed as a pioneering experiment of a jazz event taking place outside the main urban centers of
Lisbon and Porto.

The early years and today

Change is a sign of survival, resilience and vitality. Without the ability to change Guimarães Jazz would either
have disappeared or lost its primordial vigor. Nevertheless, we can easily identify the differences between the
various steps of its evolution. We tried to pursue our own path with autonomy and independence from the jazz
scene and all other similar festivals taking place in Portugal, a posture which is reflected in our relationship with
the musicians, the agents and the public.
The changes in circumstances and multiple contexts of the festival have been favorable to us throughout time. In
1995, we drew a plan for our program based on the annual best of musicians and records of that year as
published in the most prestigious jazz magazines. Many of those records included the contact details of the
musicians or their agents. Using that information, we tried to get in touch with them through fax. Not having
received any answers for a while, we began to doubt the possibility of having those artists at the festival but, in
September, the replies were finally coming and in the end we were able to set up a good programme. This
achievement constituted a great improvement of the festival’s overall quality and artistic relevance. This led us to
conclude that the best way to do it was to contact the musicians, or their agents directly, seeking to establish solid
relationships of complicity with them. As the festival’s profile started to be diffused within the circuits of jazz
musicians, it also gained some visibility within the international jazz scene.
The widespread use of Internet and mobile phone radically broadened our information network, which
contributed to the inclusion of Guimarães Jazz into the international circuit of jazz festivals. In the early years
these technologies weren’t so widely available to everybody and making the contacts was more difficult,
something which had a decisive influence on our programming choices. The gradual decrease of airline tickets
prices was also an important factor, since it provided greater mobility and allowed for an incomparably larger
number of musicians to tour. Thanks to new technologies, we are now aware of the musician’s tour dates in
advance and this enables us to diversify and to be flexible in our decisions. As we said above, we opt for autonomy
and independence and therefore we still try to contact the musicians whenever possible, thus avoiding the
mediators of the music’s industry.
The jazz world is relatively small. Consequently, everybody knows each other - even in the jazz community of New
York, composed by countless musicians from all around the globe, people are aware of the existence of
Guimarães Jazz. The exchange of information and experiences is an excellent advertising channel for the festival
- the musicians that play spread the word about the festival and praise the city’s charms all around the world.
We tried to create an original concept and identity for the festival, based on the diversity of musical approaches.
We believe that we can only communicate its message and substantiate its format effectively through the
affirmation of its differences and singularities. The technological transformations allowed us to expand the limits
of our options and we were able, after discussing its potential, of benefitting from the inauguration of Vila Flor
Cultural Centre (CCVF). Had we adopted a passive attitude, i. e. just waiting for everything to change itself and
not making the effort to recreate and reinvent the festival’s profile, things would have evolved differently. We did
not have a perfectly and determined plan. Instead, we gradually changed the organizational structure of the
festival as time went by. The evolution over the last fifteen years seems to indicate that we were able to anticipate
many changes in the context. There’s always an element of luck involved in the accomplishment of any project
because changes are never dependent exclusively on your own will. We acted according to our intuition: we knew
we could go in a certain direction without being completely aware of the consequences of such decision. We
didn’t know exactly the path we were traking but we believed that what we were doing wasn’t entirely wrong.
Everything else was due to favorable circumstances, which enabled the implementation of our ideas.
We also introduced a pedagogical dimension and the jam sessions (of which we’ll talk about afterwards) in the
programme, aggregating these activities into a common and comprehensive component. In 2003, we started a
project of workshops for young musicians, which culminated in a concert, envisaged as a good opportunity for
them to exhibit their skills and the results of their apprenticeship. Meanwhile, we promoted small concerts with
the participation of students from ESMAE, taking place in several places all over the city of Guimarães. With
time, these activities, alongside with the jam sessions, became a sort of a privileged outpost for the propagation of
the festival. Free from the high visibility of the main concerts, these activities provided a more direct and closer
relationship with the public.

History, geography, urbanism and culture - the context

We are living in times when everything is fast and ephemeral and, nevertheless, we managed to find the time and
the tranquility to meditate and work on the festival’s structure and concept. Guimarães, a city with a great
history and a monumental past, turned out to be the ideal place to organize our festival. Our work was never
antagonized, much to the contrary - the city welcomed it and followed our steps. Despite its strong identity, the
urban outline of Guimarães is hospitable and the grandiosity of its historical center enriches the event instead of
surpassing it. The festival would be very different if it were based in a cosmopolitan, more homogenous, larger
and more populated city. If placed in an impersonal and gigantic territory saturated with cultural activities, the
festival would have been nothing more than a moment with no specific relevance. The singularity of the city of
Guimarães has contributed to the festival’s definition and identity and the fact that the program is adjusted to
our local reality grants it a degree of differentiation from other similar events. The respect for the city’s
idiosyncrasies increases the probability of success of any project and the city, the region and the country benefit
from this attitude. The festival improved due to its natural integration in Guimarães and its growth was
supported by the city’s symbolism. The recent experience of Guimarães as European Capital of Culture generated
new and more diverse synergies in the city’s daily life: the inauguration of new cultural facilities, the expansion
and requalification of those that already existed and the general increase in the city’s cultural offer compelled us
to make an effort to reconsider the position of the festival in a new context and to explore other places for our
concerts and activities.

Vila Flor Cultural Center

Vila Flor Cultural Centre had a decisive influence on the evolution of Guimarães Jazz. The logistical framework it
provides for the hosting of concerts as well as its professional and technically supplied structure allowed us to
optimize the festival’s production. When we were using the university’s auditorium we sensed the festival was
showing some signs of exhaustion and, whenever we tried to explore new ideas, we recognized the extreme
difficulties we were facing. The potential of the venue was reaching its limits we couldn’t go any further because
we lacked technical and organizational support. CCVF allowed us to overcome these symptoms of stagnancy and
paralysis. Today we rely on a more function structure at our disposal, responding to multiple highly demanding
requirements involved in the wider process of enhancing the festival’s features. We are ready for the changes that
will inevitably occur in the future, the only thing we had to do was to materialize the ideas that were already in
our plans.

Backstage stories

The backstage is a sort of limbo located in the zone between the stage and the audience and it symbolizes the
invisible side of the event. What happens in the backstage is of the utmost importance for the musician’s
performance and represents a world apart which inhabits the public’s imagination and stimulates a kind of
curiosity, for it is, by definition, inaccessible to most people. We could tell many stories about the musicians’
reactions to the city, the hotels, the food, the CCVF, the Convívio Association… However, it seems more advisable
to clarify some of the technical situations of Guimarães Jazz.
As we said above, CCVF is, unarguably, a sophisticated cultural infrastructure provided with a permanent staff of
professional technicians which permits it to present concerts with the best conditions. In the backstage there are
several people working in behalf of the musicians and the audience - setting up and disassembling the stage,
taking care of lights and the sound, preparing the auditorium… tasks that are invisible albeit crucial to the
success of the event. We take care of everything regarding production: there are people supporting the artistic
director, permanently escorting the musicians, solving technical and bureaucratic problems. We have our own
designers working on the festival’s image and external communication (the press, the public…). Each edition and
each concert requires a coordinated a joint effort from a group of people that are crucial to the consolidation of
the event, who work exclusively in behalf of the artist’s comfort, solving all their problems - even those which
aren’t directly related to the concert itself - enhancing the artistic level of the festival and contributing to its
promotion abroad.

The audience - and how we look at it

To understand the reasons why people come to the concerts is a fascinating task. The audience is an
unfathomable entity and it corresponds to the sum of many individual impulses. Having bought the ticket a few
days before, the spectators leave their duties behind in order to attend the concert. Most of them act with
remarkable discretion and talk only with friends or acquaintances they occasionally meet there. Minutes before
the beginning of the show, they head to the auditorium and, when they get comfortable in their seats, they
consent to become part of a homogenous and powerful crowd for the following two hours. When they enjoy the
performance, they express their approval collectively, sometimes quite exuberantly. Their presence is always
surprising because in November nights are not inviting and even so there are people willing to give up their
homely comfort. When they come back, one year later, we obtain the confirmation of their approval by the way
they let themselves be seduced by the music.
The dialogue between the festival and its audience is done without using any words and maybe it is better like
this, since the distance towards what surrounds us stimulates a critical perspective about the whole situation. We
don’t envision this sort of detachment as a schism or as a gesture of space quantification but rather as an abstract
and subjective movement of escape from the center of the event to its outskirts, as a kind of vanishing point which
allows us to observe the festival from the outside. Distance is a way to maximize our ability to experience this
phenomenon and it makes our evaluation easier. To stand almost anonymously amidst the crowd, simultaneously
close and far from them, helps us in the interpretation of the results and in the rigorous assessment of what we
planned and what we accomplished. Our conclusions are reliable only when we are absolutely certain that the
audience thinks and acts with autonomy; when their behavior is sincere because of the lack of external
influences. To be part of the organization means that we cannot be a part of the public - our role in the festival is
incompatible with its enjoyment as spectators. To be on this side of the event transforms the way we experience it
into a completely different thing, even though we are seated in the same auditorium. We exchange the role of
spectator to enjoy intensely the spectator’s presence in the event.

The audience - and how we look at it

In the early years of the festival, the jam sessions did not have the same regularity, scope and symbolism they do
now. At first what happened was that some musicians would occasionally (and accidentally) gather at the bar of
the association Convívio and play all night long. Despite their merits, these meetings did not appear in the official
program but the acknowledgment of their potential as a valuable mean for the dissemination of jazz music and
as powerful poles of attraction and seduction of the audiences led to its inclusion in the line-up, as small events of
musical improvisation based on the premises of informality and openness to the participation of both the artists
and the public. These moments enabled a closer relationship between the musicians and the audience. They were
worldly, physical and musical extensions of the festival far beyond the circumscription of the main concerts and
they also promoted contact between young and consecrated performers, presenting jazz music in its most
genuine form. The jam sessions officially included in the official program twelve years after the debut of
Guimarães Jazz and their implementation was slowly improved. Following this decision, we thought it would be
advisable to appoint talented and acclaimed musicians to “direct” these events in order to award these moments
of celebration an even greater importance and visibility. Something that used to be a fairly random event was
transformed into a steady and systematic practice. This allowed us to introduce new habits and other means of
contact with the music in the festival, prolonging its enjoyment.
The jam sessions embody the essence of jazz, a kind of music whose main locus is the stage and the live
performance taking place in an environment that is both relaxed and competitive. Since jazz music isn’t attached
to musical scores, it relies mainly on improvisation. This structure is based on real-time creation and represents a
kind of approach to be developed live on stage in order to communicate its original matrix. Therefore, the jam
sessions, which are currently one of the most mobilizing features of the festival, simultaneously complement and
support the event - they appear to both the audience and the musicians as intense, spontaneous and genuine
moments, and constitute great opportunities for younger performers to show their skills. These sessions promote
contact between artists with different backgrounds - some less experienced, others already well-known - while
providing a possibility for the public to listen to the musicians they watched in CCVF’s grand auditorium in a very
different context.


When we heard about the existence of official grants for educational activities in artistic projects we decided to
introduce a pedagogical dimension to Guimarães Jazz. This seemed a great opportunity to enrich the programme
as well as a means of accomplishing our desire to captivate our juvenile audiences more effectively. The financial
resources acquired enabled us to bring to the festival musicians musicians to teach workshops, take care of the
jam sessions and direct a live performance on stage.
The concerts will always be the festival’s main activity. The educational facet will never be its primary concern,
and it is not our intention to guide the sensibilities of the public. Our aim is to make information available; in
other words, we use enticement strategies hoping that, once experienced in its state of absolute purity, beauty
and singularity, jazz music will become more and more appreciated - a purpose which the jam sessions help
reaffirm. We don’t want to guide the audience’s aesthetical preferences and options but only to create the ideal
conditions for the emergence of the necessary curiosity for jazz and the experiences it can generate- we function
in terms of processes of attraction. Apart from being effective mechanisms to attract audiences, the jam sessions
and workshops also promote and consolidate learning. In this sense, the festival turns out as a dynamo for future
musical projects and artistic careers.
The current educational program involves the participation of young musicians in the concerts related to its side
activities, in the jam sessions and in the one-week period of preparation of a show directed by experienced and
reputed guest artists. Younger students have their own space of intervention in the festival, watching concerts,
attending workshops and playing in a big band. Our duty is to promote jazz and to create bridges between styles
and people with different backgrounds - encouraging young musicians and students to embrace an artistic
career. The recently founded Jazz School of Convívio has currently forty students. It is undeniable proof of the
city’s intent to develop a more durable and consequent educational strategy, expanding the two-weeks pedagogic
experience in Guimarães Jazz through an annual cycle of studies.

Institutional teaching of jazz

In the beginning of jazz most musicians were self-taught. Their survival instinct and the need to make money
forced some of them to learn music because they knew that if they knew how to play an instrument in any context
they would have more possibilities to find paid work. The mastery of different styles and genres was related to the
knowledge of musical writing and musical conventions. The most sought musicians were the most versatile, that
is the ones who adapted faster to the multiplicity of musical languages and formulas. These qualities of versatility
and musical complexity were in the origins of jazz’s prestige and universality and were favorable factors leading
to the diversification of its grammar. At a later stage, jazz music - already conceptualized and intellectualized -
compelled musicians to find solutions for the aesthetical difficulties brought up by the element of interpretation.
Based on improvisation, jazz is a process of real-time musical composition. Despite the outcomes due to
technological development, this music must preserve its spontaneity, unwaveringly protecting this decisive
stimulus-response relationship on which improvisation is based - this kind of interaction, mainly physical and
intuitive, appears as an imperative principle of jazz’s identity. The musician who improvises faces the challenge
of having to give their partners creative solutions throughout each and every instant of his performance - the
authenticity of this process will appear as a sign of its originality and a guarantee of its artistic quality. Starting
from a given musical motif, an improviser must play his instrument regardless of any stylistic or conceptual
impositions and create a set of new phrases sequenced according to his own volition. As we all know, creation is
always an act of freedom.
Jazz schools appeared in the context of this evolution as a learning system developed in several universities. This
process of integration into formal institutions has changed the practical and theoretical bases of improvisation
and today many musicians possess the skills required to play in very different styles and contexts, because they
gained the necessary knowledge in schools. A formal education in the academic contexts is both beneficial and
harmful to improvisation. On the one hand, it may shorten the time of assimilation of its intrinsic knowledge and
it benefits the technical aspects of the musician’s performance; however, on the other hand, it may constrain the
musician’s identity - the sounds he produces are not original because he is limited to the use of conventional and
canonical musical phrases, no matter how good their technical skills are. Sometimes, when we are listening to
certain musicians, we feel that their work is nothing more than the reflection of a solid learning of music theory
based on the memorization of processes and that it lacks an indispensable element of creativity lacking.
Sometimes school tends to the standardization of techniques and ways of thinking, submitting the artists to
inflexible and homogenous formats - therefore, strictly academic logics of making music may harm the artistic
evolution of a musician.
Contemporary musicians face a specific dilemma, trying to find the right balance between their formal learning
and the will to create music with a personal identity. In this sense, Institutional teaching should be regarded, in
this sense, as a complement
to their natural talent and abilities, simultaneously stimulating the students’ spontaneity so that they may later
build up their artistic individuality.

Portuguese and foreign musicians

The fact that Guimarães Jazz’s programme presents mostly foreign musicians does not imply any disregard for
Portuguese artists - in twenty-two years we presented fifty-two projects which included more than a hundred
Portuguese musicians. When we first started organizing this festival, the jazz scene in Portugal was very
different: there were fewer musicians, and the program reflected this. Our effort to fill this gap led us to explore,
from 1999 to 2004, the concept of a big band composed by both Portuguese and foreign musicians directed by a
prestigious orchestra conductor. After several days of rehearsal, this group would go onstage to perform a
musical proposal developed exclusively for the festival. In 2004, when we concluded that we had exhausted every
possibility involving this format, we came up with a new project, taking advantage of our experience and of the
partnership with ESMAE, a jazz school from Porto, since many of its students were already attending our
workshops. We then developed a new idea for a big band formed by its students, which would go onstage after
several days of rehearsal under the direction of jazz musicians. This started in 2005. In 2012, we even managed
to organize a concert with a jazz big band and string ensemble which included up to forty young musicians. We
think this was an important moment for Portuguese jazz, since that experience enabled the interaction between
young performers coming from different backgrounds (jazz and classical music). A well-known musician from
Barcelona had the opportunity to attend this concert with ESMAE’s big band and string ensemble and he
admitted that, even though he had been playing in many festivals all around the world for many years, he had
never seen a project with such characteristics.
Since 2006, the festival has produced a successful series of concert recordings in association with the jazz record
label Tone of a Pitch, with a view to be published on CD. These recordings are purposely conceived for
Guimarães Jazz and based on the collaboration between Portuguese and foreign musicians. This project enables
us to document some of the festival’s moments and to gather an important asset for future memory, while
promoting the Portuguese jazz scene.
Portuguese jazz shouldn’t be underrated because none of this would be possible without the work of the
musicians and the interest of the public. We would be happy to present more Portuguese projects in the context
of the festival but, considering that the configuration of the program reflects our commitment with the audience,
a radical change of that pact could deceive the expectations of the spectators and give rise to misconceptions and
misinterpretations regarding that decision. If such a scenario occurred, it would be necessary for us to justify this
transition in order to obtain consent from the public. We must preserve the interest of the two parties, for the
lack of public would only harm the Portuguese musicians.
The jazz scene in Portugal has been changing with time and there are currently many young and promising
musicians playing all around the country, a situation that will force us to question the role of the festival and
impel us to reflect on its future. The economic and social circumstances have caused the extinction of various
festivals but concert audiences are not decreasing, especially in big cities such as Lisbon or Porto. Nowadays,
there is a significant and increasing number of jazz musicians in Portugal and this number tends to increase, so
it’s expected that in the near future both the public and the musicians will have more information and be capable
of better critical thinking regarding artistic and musical issues. The festival has the responsibility of following
this phenomenon and giving it the best response possible.

The festival and the european jazz scene

Guimarães Jazz embraces all kinds of jazz, from the most traditional and antique to the most extreme and
contemporary. Once we face the fact that we’re living in an age when integration on any fields of activity is
dependent of our ability to develop some form of specialization, we have to ask ourselves if the festival’s concept
and format are still capable of fulfilling its objectives of implementation and being attractive to the audiences.
The feedback we get from the public seems to indicate that we’ve found an effective way of diffusing jazz music.
Throughout its editions, the festival has presented all styles and musical idioms existing in modern jazz and that
is the reason why it cannot be qualified as an event confined to a single theme, typology, style or specific category,
limited and directed to the satisfaction of a restricted group of fans. Despite its age, the changes of
circumstances, the contextual transformations, the evolution of our communication strategies and the increasing
availability of music in our lives, the festival maintains its distinctive features and founding concepts intact. Our
event, built as a ten-day sequence of concentrated highintensity jazz moments, has been capable of meeting the
audience’s expectations and of standing up to profound changes occurring in the social habits of cultural
consumption in contemporary societies.
Many other jazz festivals appeared and disappeared over the last  22 years and, nevertheless, Guimarães Jazz
preserved its original and unifying energy. In the 1950’s there were already some reputed jazz events, such as
Newport. Besides being a crucial landmark in jazz’s history, this festival would exert a great influence upon the
first jazz festival in Portugal, Cascais Jazz. The latter, founded in 1971 under very specific sociological
circumstances which make it a very peculiar case study - it was organized in the context of a dictatorial regime
and it was felt by everyone as a political protest event. Cascais Jazz was a symbol of an antiestablishment attitude
shared by fifteen thousand people filling a sports pavilion with poor acoustic conditions. The festival’s audience
wasn’t composed only of jazz connoisseurs but also by other people who, motivated by very different reasons
(artistic, social, political), would take the event as an opportunity to get together and share their experiences
while they listened to music with an undeniable past of political irreverence. In terms of strictly aesthetical
orientations, Guimarães Jazz follows the paradigm drawn by Cascais Jazz regarding the preference for North-
American musicians, an option contrary to the trends followed by almost every other European jazz festival, or at
least the most traditional ones, which tend to focus on European artists.
We created, within the festival, a formula for its diffusion which irradiates a remarkable mobilizing voltage that
we feel is fully captured by our audiences. Despite the influence of the internet, iPods, mp3s, records and the
general media which provide us music in formats where the sound is lagged and disconnected from the precise
moment of the musician’s performance, we still haven’t noticed any decrease in the public’s affluence. Nowadays
the easy access to music has the effect of transforming the act of listening to music into an ordinary and
unimportant thing - technology allow us to listen to whatever we want where we want wherever we like (waiting
rooms, restaurants, elevators, in the streets...). We’re also witnessing a struggle for the occupation of the sound
space available according to a logic of competition, in a world where people are bombarded with music of
doubtful quality. Our ears are subjected to a multiplicity of stimuli and there isn’t enough space for us to listen to
something with attention and care - this environment of sonic saturation does not allow us to either rationalize or
absorb the aesthetical particularities of music. Therefore, it’s very difficult for us to freely accomplish a sensible
assimilation of an artistic object, as this is the natural result or our need to obtain personal pleasure from it.
Among other things, music spreads rapidly through people, inducing contradictory feelings of attraction and
rejection and provoking ephemeral, disposable and volatile acts of acceptance. Though existing in a context of
instability, in which speed and the pressure of the ”new” are predominant characteristics, and suffering from the
inevitable exhaustion of its sonic background, the festival was able to preserve its identity and it is still exciting
and challenging to work on its development.
Time is an imperative factor to take into account if we want an event to survive its contingencies. In a society
where people want everything to be fast, happening here and now, success is as fast as it is voluble and fugacious,
therefore demanding that we permanently endeavour to adapt and adjust. In a world made of images and
communication an event without any media attention simply doesn’t exist. Time backs our actions with the
necessary consistency but, nevertheless, people seem to offer resistance to consciously and slowly assimilated
experiences, choosing instead hasty, fictitious and uncertain paths.

The organization of a festival brings some surprises along, especially when its history is long. Guimarães Jazz is
commented in Portugal and abroad, not just by people belonging to the jazz scene but also by others who are just
music lovers and part of its audience. After twenty-two years of activity, our notion of its dimension and external
impact is not very accurate and this fact only contributes to the increase in our responsibility.

The specter of influence

The festival is a living organism, absorbing and generating processes of change. Being a structured organization,
we’re also watchful of other people’s reactions and messages in order to try and meet their expectations. We
gather information and know-how from musicians as well as from the young students who take part in our
pedagogical actions and we carefully monitor the development of those activities. We make an effort to provide
the audience with the best conditions possible. In two weeks of Guimarães Jazz, there are lots of things
happening simultaneously, which involves an enormous amount of work related to the coordination of our staff
and resources. Everything is relevant, small details and big decisions have the same importance: a small detail
may cause the success or the failure of a concert and it may have a big influence on a given decision.

How to run a festival in times of crisis

The festival has a long story behind it and its concept has improved with time. Since its debut, we’ve been
introducing and refining various different activities we believed to be good means of accomplishing of our main
goal, which is to diffuse jazz and seduce the largest possible number of people to this kind of music. The
heterogeneous and multifaceted audience assisting the concerts and jam sessions empowers the festival with a
kind of legitimacy, whose main essence is the music itself. In this sense, musicians are, in this sense, as important
as the audience, and both embody the visible and identifiable dimension of this event, through which its image
propagates. In the course of time Guimarães became more and more responsive to the festival and today we can
safely say that the city is highly committed to it. The big concerts at the grand auditorium of Vila Flor Cultural
Centre, the jam sessions and the several pedagogic activities proposed are currently the great main vectors of
Guimarães Jazz and, when put together, they form a complex and technically well-equipped structure. The way
each of these guidelines is settled allows us to promote the festival’s profile in Portugal and other countries as an
event that presents a kind of music which is both particular and universal, showing the audience the work of
acclaimed musicians, taking into account the importance of encompassing the movements of style and different
perspectives towards contemporary jazz, in line with the artistic evolution that took place over the last hundred
years. The festival is supported by a professional organizational structure with a strong technical know-how
which ensures its production. It grew and improved many of its experiences over the years, but not without going
by through some hard times. Despite the difficulties, we never lost the confidence and the adherence of our
public. It is impossible to say at this point if the difficult economic situation of our country will have a negative
effect on the festival or not. We hope not. However, if we are forced to change our plans for the allocation of
resources or to redefine the festival’s profile we believe we will be able to come up with a new, sensible and
balanced model of artistic criteria for our programmes. Our experience and all the work we have behind us will
assure its effective reformulation. Guimarães Jazz is not completely immune to the distresses of the artistic and
cultural environment nor to its economic and social contexts but, on the other hand, its past accomplishments
and the valuable knowledge we already possess will surely guarantee its continuity. We’ll find the right solutions
in order to preserve its identity in all circumstances after pondering their specific dimension and significance.
Because the festival is very important to the city and because the city is responsive to its status, Guimarães Jazz
will survive even the most hostile contingences.

The issuu of “taste” in art - the politics of selection

When we choose a musician to perform at the festival we must take several variables into account. To choose a
certain artist involves creating some sort of expectation, something which, in a sense, implicates a certain
amount of risk. There are some pragmatic situations which impose conditions to our selection and in order to
fully understand them it’s useful to draw a brief overview of Guimarães Jazz logistic and organizational history.
In its early years, the festival took place in various venues around the city until it settled on the amphitheater of
Minho University, a 500-seat hall with some technical flaws. Today, he main concerts are held, as we said above,
in CCVF’s grand auditorium, an infrastructure designed to host large productions, with a capacity of 800 people
and technically well-equiped. In 2012 the city of Guimarães inaugurated the new Arts Platform with a hall for
200 people, providing the festival with a good auditorium for smaller concerts. Technological evolution, with
new means of communication and innovative software and design tools, allowed us to explore more ambitiously
the artistic scope of the festival and to reformulate its profile and identity. It is a completely different thing to
select a musician to perform in a 500-seat hall or in an 800-seat auditorium - this radical change of
circumstances compelled us to consider new programming criteria.
Time adjustments are also an important variable. The days in which the festival occurs are fixed and the design
of the programme relies on the conjunction of its calendar and the agenda of the musicians’ tours. An important
figure of jazz’s history won’t accept coming to Guimarães (or anywhere in Europe, in the case of north-American
artists) to perform just one concert because he/ she is highly requested and only travels according to a previous
schedule set by his/her agent. Therefore, the hiring of a musician is preceded by an adjustment of dates and by
an evaluation of its financial impact on the budget. Each programming decision results from an opportunity and
a period of intense negotiation which sometimes interferes with the agreement’s accomplishment.
In the course of time Guimarães Jazz acquired significant international recognition and its current prestige
favours contacts with the artists, something which is done using various methods: direct and personal
relationship with the musicians, the invitations sent to their agents or representatives, or proposals made to the
orchestras which act as mediators with the intended composers - some musicians work on a regular basis as
soloists with European big bands, presenting their compositions with orchestral arrangements.
Our accrued experience, as well as previous knowledge of the musicians’ tours, enables us to plan the programs
for each edition of the festival with one year in advance. The chain mechanism of the procedures described above
is decisive to the definition of our guidelines and requires a careful management of its specificities: the chance of
a given musician being available at a certain time; the ability to take advantage of the information collected;
finding appropriate solutions to unexpected problems. This is the only way of achieving a high level of cohesion
between the subjective preferences of the artistic director and the expectations of the public. The number of
tickets sold appears as a quantifiable parameter of evaluation of this relationship with the public and can be seen
as barometer of the people’s approval and level of satisfaction, which we can use to assess the adequacy of each
Although we acknowledge the influence of external factors, the selection of the artists for the festival also involves
subjective motivations which derive from the personal “taste” of the person who takes decisions. Even though
that personal “taste” is predominant, and impossible to ignore, there are other criteria which counterbalance the
overly personal character of the selection and help us meet the public’s expectations. The careful analysis of the
public’s movements and reactions and our effort to find common points of motivation and artistic interest is a
form of minimizing the subjectivity inherent to the activity of an artistic directorof a jazz festival.
Our main goal is to achieve a good balance between the various proposals included in the festival’s line-up and
avoid repetitions, so that the programme doesn’t result on a mere and not very stimulating sequence of identical
musical moments. We are not interested in presenting musicians or works merely because they are historically
relevant: each concert must have an aesthetical validity sustaining it in artistic terms. The program must not be
just a chart of musical proposals taking place at fixed dates and following a more or less arbitrary sequence. The
festival advocates the diffusion of jazz - therefore, it must reveal an effort to show the plurality of its stylistic
trends, in order to please an heterogeneous audience the is composed by highly specialized experts in jazz and
others who are less aware of the particularities of this kind of music. We are against the populist logic of
submission to the starsystem, a tenet which obliges to exhibition of the greater names (both of the mainstream
and of the so-called “underground”) and which highlights the mundane side of a system based on the cult of
personality. Our objective of making the program appealing also compels us to refrain repeating the presence of
musicians in the festival. A balanced line-up must present musical projects distinct from each other both in terms
of the number of musicians and their instrumentation.
The audience is the mobile part of the event. The concerts set up a relationship with the audience and we intend
to establish the strongest and widest connection within our reach. Taking the public into account does not mean
we are giving up our musical criteria in favor of other values beyond the artistic quality of the projects -the desire
to please the “other” is a natural thing, provided that we don’t disregard this last requirement. We are
comfortable acting this way because we don’t believe that we can or should make the public captive of the
festival. The blend between our choices and the audience’s preferences, done without neglecting the artistic
quality of our offers, is a way to encourage the people to make their own decisions and judge by themselves. We
try to establish an informal agreement with our audience. If renewed every year, this agreement emerges as a sign
of approval. The respect for the audience’s artistic taste charges us with further responsibility. Each decision
presupposes an inherent risk because the success of a concert is never completely assured - those who seem to be
the best musicians and the ones with the strongest artistic proposals do not always confirm their merits on stage.
Even if we predict that a given artist will be well-received because of his prestige and status, we tend to be
cautious regarding the audience’s responses. We believe this is the most reasonable and wiser posture to adopt
since it promotes the public’s autonomy and restates the absence of manipulation within this specific pact
between the programmer and the audience. We wish to become intimately acquainted with the public and to
celebrate a constructive relationship based on mutual freedom with them. The accomplishment of this
commitment requires that people feel free to express their emotions and opinions without limitations or
constraints and also to manifest their approval or discontent. These inputs must be spontaneous and loose, as
well as the result of a careful meditation and of an honestly felt emotion and not the product of a guided and
manipulated evaluation. As programmers, we are not allowed to interfere either with individual aesthetical
choices or with the opinions of those who attend the concerts. We simply sought to create the conditions for the
free expression of feelings, avoiding the pressure of foreign interests and the eloquence of persuasive discourses.
It is not up to us to say what is artistically right or wrong but only to put some music at the audience’s disposal,
exposing ourselves to the best and most conscious critical interpretations.

Music as a substance to explore

Jazz and the other styles of music mutually influence each other, albeit consisting of very dissimilar realities. It is
obvious that when we listen to jazz and when we organize a festival dedicated to this specific genre we are also
fostering the interest for music in general. In this sense, Guimarães Jazz performs a dual function: it diffuses jazz
and works as a stimulus for the audience’s curiosity for the musical art and its history. In the early years we were
having trouble drawing the line between these two spheres and we were permanently mixing up jazz and other
styles by promoting less clear and risky confluences between different styles and musical languages. Nowadays,
the diversity and dispersion of genres render all our efforts to classify or identify music redundant - most people
listen to music without making rigid compromises of identification and without professed preferences for this or
that genre or aesthetic. Therefore, we don’t intend to guide the artist criteria of the festival according to an
exclusive and single stylistic guidance, since we believe that the festival must be a mirror and a way of
understanding and decoding this contextual ambiguity in the arts and the volubility of people’s musical
preferences. If we acted differently, we would be restricting the access to the festival and that is the opposite of
our main goal - we desire to develop a formula capable of arousing the interest and curiosity regarding music as a
substance to explore both on a personal and transpersonal level.